As a build-up to the Design x Nature reception happening next week (Thursday. October 16 – RSVP here) at the Brickworks, we thought that this would be a great time to share some of the process behind the Strata project with you guys!

The idea of binding aggregate together to form a whole was introduced to us by our intern, a recent industrial design grad from Emily Carr University.  During his studies, a major project of theirs was to figure out how to bind ground up cork and turn it into a viable product. When we saw this idea, we knew it was perfect for the project.  We then brainstormed other materials that were typically considered as rubbish and came up with the idea of layering these materials to get a beautiful striation effect. 

The main challenges that we had to conquer in the beginning was to figure out what type of binding agent would be robust enough for the purpose of outdoor public seating and also to figure out how to find (a lot) of cork and tires.

For the corks we decided that our best bet was to grab our bicycles and head towards my hometown.  We took the GO Train to downtown Niagara Falls and pedaled towards Niagara-on-the-Lake with two goals in mind: to collect as many corks as we could carry on our bikes and to sample as much delicious wine as possible.  By the end of the day, our Strava app told us that we had completed 50km on our journey for corks and samples!

With corks collected, we were ¼ of the way there in collecting our aggregate. We came across a great local company called Rymar who was able to provide us with untreated ground rubber tire.  The rest of the aggregate was byproduct by the NDC: our shop is always full of sawdust and wood shavings, and the concrete aggregate was provided by the miscasts from our Cairo Star Concrete Clock. 

Trying to stay true to the theme of the design brief, we originally wanted to use lignin as our binding agent.  Lignin is naturally present in wood and is a byproduct of the papermaking process. Although Canada’s paper and pulp mill industries are concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, we had a difficult time sourcing lignin in the timeframe of the project and had to substitute silicone as our binding agent. A bit of a tradeoff for us since silicone is synthetic and made from virgin material, but we were more confident in the sealing properties of it and in the back of our minds we were worried that lignin may decompose over time, leaving Brickwork visitors with a pile of aggregate after a few rainfalls.    

Check back next week to see the final result of the Strata stools! In the meantime we wanted to say a special thanks to our intern, John, and to the wineries that provided us with their delicious wine and corks: Stratus Vineyards, Jackson Triggs Winery, Caroline Cellars, Malivore, Trius Winery, Peller Estates, and Ravine Vineyard.   If anyone is interested in following our winery bicycle tour, here’s a map of our route - highly recommended!

- Heather

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